The world's fascination with Bob Dylan, and Dylan's ability to confound the world in return, makes for interesting observation. Throughout his career, people have tried to pin him down and he's wiggled away every time (cackling all the way, at least in my imagination). They've tried to pin him down on matters of religion, to which Dylan has said, "The songs are my lexicon. I believe the songs." So do I.
I haven't memorized the lyrics to nearly as many songs as I should. The ones I have committed to memory have provided me with more wisdom, knowledge, and insight than I can ever describe. I've seen people I know and understood them better. I've learned about people I've never encountered and may never meet. The songs have filled the gaps in my experience and I'm better for it. I've seen myself as I am, and the people I'd like to be, in them. Today, I've found the truth in the closing chapter of Dylan's Modern Times, "Ain't Talkin.'"
I'm not going to tell you what the song means. You make an ass of yourself most of the time when you try to translate Dylan. I was in a headspace in search of something and I found it.
The protagonist is a modern-day pilgrim, feeling increasingly detached from the world around him. Why is he feeling detached? Is it because he knows his time is just about up? Is it because he no longer sees a place for himself in the world around him? Is it both? It's not immediately clear, but either way he's heading for the door. It's hard to hit a moving target so the pilgrim wanders on, not lingering to talk to those he meets. He knows no one will follow him because no one can follow him, and he doesn't want them to anyway. He's heading for the door, tipping his cap, and hoping to escape unnoticed with what he's held onto for this long.
The world is playing checkers. Bob Dylan is playing chess.